WOMADelaide 2021 – day 3 review

Three rapidly-rising young stars thrilled the day 3 audience, each with their individual take on contemporary style.

It’s a super-confident artist who opens her first WOMADelaide appearance with an a cappella song, and pulls it off magnificently, especially at only twenty years young. Miiesha did it so well.

The intro to the song was a recording of her beloved Grandmother who raised her saying: “Remember you’re nobody’s property”.

She’s taken it on board; this is one feisty performer.

But Miiesha knows only too well the emotional importance of living with kin, and how lost she felt when she moved from her small community of Woorabinda in Queensland to Melbourne.

Miiesha: a big voice with all options. Photo: Wade Whitington
Miiesha: a big voice with all options. Photo: Wade Whitington

So for Drowning the intro is Tony Abbott’s infamous intervention on Closing the Gap: “it’s not the job of the taxpayer to subsidise lifestyle choices”. Sigh.

There’s no doubt Miiesha has what it takes: a big voice that comes with a complete range of options from smooth and hushed through to surging improvised cadenzas.

She certainly has the awards to validate it including the ARIA Award for Best R&B Release for her debut release Nyaaringu. She also won the prestigious NME ranking of the best Australian albums of 2020: “Nyaaringu signalled the arrival of a new homegrown trailblazer”.

For her WOMADelaide show she had keyboards, drums, two excellent backup vocalists plus a sequencer off-stage. That line-up limited the scope of her live performance somewhat. With no live guitar and bass, there wasn’t much opportunity for instrumental solos and interplay between musicians to fill out song structures. Consequently some songs were remarkably short and ended indecisively; that’s OK for recordings, but doesn’t work so well for live shows.

But overall there was a natural authenticity that was both endearing and satisfying in Miiesha’s performance and in her between-songs patter. We came away feeling we now know something of this person and her Pitjantjatjara and Torres Strait Islander heritage.

Maybe a little patter-mentoring might be useful to tighten it up, so long as the authenticity isn’t swamped.

The back-announce from long-running WOMADelaide MC, Annette Shun Wah summed it up so well: “How can someone so young be so wise?”

Kaiit

Kaiit stepped it up another level. The extra years of live experience – she previously appeared at WOMADelaide in 2019 – meant she relaxed onto the stage as if it were her second home.

Her easy laid-back voice – in typical Melanesian style – still had ample power when needed for scatting and emphasis.

Kaiit: The audience loved her infectious chuckle. Photo: Wade Whitington

She had a live band of super musicians who backed her sympathetically with style and personality.

Adrian Perger (aka Astro from Astro and the Ages) was a standout, doubling on trumpet and keys simultaneously to produce gorgeous trumpet duets.

Astro brilliantly doubling on trumpet and keyboard. Photo: Wade Whitington

On Duffman the enormous potential of this band shone through given the obvious chemistry between Kaiit and Astro. They produced a brilliant piece of call-and-answer improvisation, with Kaiit’s fine vocal scatting drawing beautiful trumpet replies.

The rhythm section – bass and percussion led by Mikey Chan on acoustic guitar – is excellent, providing a first-class springboard for Kaiit. No wonder she can be so relaxed on stage. The audience loved her infectious chuckle as she repeatedly expressed her gratitude for being at WOMADelaide; the feeling was entirely mutual.

Her parting message as she left the stage was “Remember: tread lightly on these sacred lands.” She’s rather special.

Since bursting onto the scene in 2017 this wonderful PNG-born artist has amassed quite some achievements. There’s a great summary on the WOMADelaide site here.

Tash Sultana

Tash has gathered a huge global fan base with a one-person show that was honed as a busker in Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall for six years.

Tash: a one-person powerhouse surrounded by instruments. Photo: Wade Whitington

Tash has an exceptional voice and some fine guitar riffs, producing semi-psychedelic trance/dance vibes, backed up with a matching arty moving light show and physical moves.

Multiple four-bar loops are the essence of the music. Tash gradually builds them up on the spot from a riff on keyboard, guitar, bass, drum machine and an array of other instruments that are played with varying levels of proficiency. Apart from guitar, keyboard seems to be Tash’s next best instrument; some lovely little sequences were produced on the Korg.

Tash’s music is ideal for those dancing their socks off. And for those watching, there’s plenty of interest in observing the construction of the cumulative loops and lighting.

Tash Sultana in full flight. Photo: Wade Whitington

But if you close your eyes and simply listen you realise the inherent limitation of Tash’s shtick. Starting with a four-bar loop, and then building an entire song on just that loop repeating endlessly gives you nowhere to go. The only significant options for variety are to turn off a few of the loops at times, leaving just vocal and guitar, for example.

Tash jamming and layering the loops. Photo: Wade Whitington

As Tash put it: “This is great. It’s like I’m jamming in my lounge room and you’re all here to watch.” Tash was happy. And so was the audience. They didn’t seem to have any problem with songs not really going anywhere, so why should I worry? Maybe I’m just a prisoner to the verse, chorus and middle eight.

Don’t miss the WOMADelaide 2021 finale review here.

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